I'm in a moral quandary about my responsibility to my aging parents.
January 14, 2019 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What do I owe my aging co-dependent parents?

This is a very long question.

I'm in a moral quandary about how to best care for myself and my family with regards to the long term care of my aging parents.

My father is a paranoid narcissist. Imagine Donald Tr45p but without money, position, or power. Physically, mentally and emotionally abusive to me, my mother and brother for years.

I moved north at 17. My parents and brother stayed in the deep south.

My brother suffered with severe mental illness from the age of 24 onward and died 5 years ago during a manic episode. He lived in my grandmother's old house, next door to my parents, for over a decade during the worst and final years of his illness.

An added wrinkle in our story is that I was molested by my step-grandfather and was called upon by my family to out him as a pedophile during a fight over this same house. My parents were able to keep my grandmother's house, and my brother was able to live out his tortured days there, because of my intervention with my step-grandfather. I literally told him I would have him arrested if he did not back down. My parents were forced to sell this house two years ago to finance their retirement after using it as rental income property proved more costly and demanding than they could handle. They're both in their seventies.

My father now denies this ever happened. Let me repeat that - my father denies that I ever intervened to ensure that my parents would now have a small nest egg to finance their remaining years by outing my step-grandfather as a pedophile. It is his intention to disinherit me, you see, out of sheer spite, and the fact of my personal sacrifice for his benefit is inconvenient to the narrative he has now written for me in his mind.

My parents have declined severely since my brother's death. My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and my father has lost a good deal of his hearing, and sleeps 18 hours a day. Fox News is on by the couch he sleeps on 24/7. When he's not stewing or sleeping, he works on a book about Alabama football that he says will "sell a million copies." His sole marketing strategy for this as yet unwritten book has been to purchase The Art of the Deal, and to spend about $2000 of their meager financial resources on "research" via the internet. This is his whole life. He leaves the house to grocery shop and get prescriptions and that's it.

My mother had knee replacement surgery in July of this year. I flew down to stay with them for a few days post-operatively. It was a disaster. My father was alternately indulgent or dismissive, actually laughing at me openly while my mother's surgeon was in her hospital room (he has always had a habit of diminishing me publicly in situations that make him uncomfortable, including at the funeral home in front of the funeral director, the day before my brother's funeral. I posted about it here.)

Suffice it to say, my father and I had another in our series of large, ugly arguments, and I left a day early. The argument centered around my father's refusal to allow me to purchase an elevated toilet seat for my mother to use until she regained her strength and mobility; he did not want to be inconvenienced when he used the bathroom. During this argument, he trotted out a series of bizarre, trumpian talking points about me being a liberal and living in a bubble, and some familiar canards about me being a failure and bad at my work and unable to "talk to men" and "a bad person." FWIW, I'm a successful performer and audiobook narrator and have been for 20 years. Now that narration and podcasting are my focus, he openly mocks my voice whenever given the opportunity. Doing so in front of my mother's surgeon was a new take on this old game.

I am now estranged from them, save for a few texting exchanges I've had with my mother since.

Now I have heard from a cousin who is in contact with my mother who tells me my parents have had two car accidents since my mother's surgery five months ago. She tells me my mother's tremors are getting worse and that she has no stamina or strength. My mother texted me a little about the loss of her vitality but not the car accidents or tremors. She texts on a flip phone and has no access to the internet outside of what my father shows her. She acknowledges she should have left him years ago but, when I proposed the idea of her coming to live with and my family couple of years back, she said, "You know I can't do that." That was the end of it.

To be honest, I am just tired of all this, in spite of the love I still feel for my mother. I am heartbroken over this loss and feel very guilty about effectively leaving her to the fate of god knows how many years in a bed with my father as her sole companion. But it does feel to me like a loss i must start to process now and move on. I can see very clearly, probably for the first time, my mother's complicity in her own misery and feel compelled NOT to rescue her. It just seems morally wrong for me to abandon a person who has a physical disease that could prevent her from helping herself.

I have talked with my mother's cousin about the idea of setting up a cleaning person/aide to go in a couple of times a month to clean and keep an eye on her, with this cousin as an intermediary to arrange it and receive money from me to put toward it. But, in truth, I just don't want the responsibility anymore. I have a six year old son who needs me, and I already spent 15 years in therapy to deal with the sexual abuse by my step-grandfather, and emotional and physical abuse by my father. My father just refuses to treat me respectfully, or as an adult with decision-making capabilities,, and my son has even expressed fear at going to their house anymore because it's "full of bugs" (hoarder situation with cockroach infestation, its grim.) He says, though, that he misses his Grammy, and he does not understand why they don't even try to see him or talk to him. It infuriates me and makes me heartbroken for him, as well.

I feel guilty abandoning my mother to her fate, particularly because of the physical and emotional effects of losing my brother. But I think I have to turn my back on them. Is there anyway to do this humanely? Is this fair to my six year old? What should I do? What would you do?

Thanks for reading.
posted by TryTheTilapia to Human Relations (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This Carolyn Hax column was just posted the other day, and it may help in terms of the big picture. "Renounce 'magic.' The more we invest ourselves in an outcome, the more we set ourselves up to lose."
posted by Melismata at 9:08 AM on January 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

oh, god, that's so awful. I'm so sorry.

It seems clear you need to have no more contact with your father.

Maybe take it day by day with your mother -- obviously you can't go visit them in their home; but would it be worthwhile to get an airbnb nearby with your son, pick Grammy up (meet her at the end of the block maybe), take her to lunch, bring her back to the airbnb for dessert and nice afternoon (TV? games?), and then... take her home and leave? Without getting back into more entanglement? Would be it be worthwhile to try once and see how it goes?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:12 AM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

Parkinson’s also causes depression (the dopamine system suffers), this might be playing into her attitude... but maybe if you can get through to her alone, she’d let her doctor and potentially a social worker help?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

This feels smothering and suffocating and exhausting to read and I'm so sorry you're going through it. The whole situation sounds like a sinking ship that your parents have chosen to live on. It has the potential to take you down with it, but you can still jump off and swim if you want to. You ask what the healthiest thing for your son is, and honestly I think it's walking away from this house of emotional and literal cockroaches which is already troubling him.

The relationship with your father sounds unsalvageable - I don't believe children blanket owe parents support in old age, and doubly so if there isn't basic respect involved in the interaction. Your dad undermines you constantly and I can't imagine him beginning to meet you on the level emotionally or toning down this behaviour as he gets older and crankier. There's a cultural narrative that we have to try and try to make peace with difficult and abusive family members in the hope of changing them, but it's just not possible or true for some people. My dad never got close to being able to engage with me emotionally in a non-abusive way, and there was no magic moment before he died when the scales fell suddenly from his eyes and he saw me as a real person. Further engagements with someone who can't stop belittling you and who seems impervious to change should be minimised for the sake of your self worth, and so that your kid doesn't have the pain of watching your father treating you like that. I'm nearly thirty now and I still have flashbacks of my grandma screaming at my dad and verbally abusing him.

The relationship with your mother is harder, and I understand your concerns about leaving her in poor physical shape with only your father around, but she has chosen this. You've asked about leaving or making other plans and she's said point-blank that that won't be possible. Whatever her reasons are, they seem very ingrained, presumably by however-many years of being married to That Guy (your father). This is terrible and tragic for her, but you offered to help her off the sinking ship and she told you she couldn't leave it. It sounds like a huge amount would need to shift in either her or in your parents' relationship to make leaving possible for her. It is not your fault that this is the case. It's okay if you need to walk away from the whole situation for your own sanity. You cannot save someone who isn't prepared to let you save them.

I think it would be okay to try reaching out to her without your father's involvement, as suggested above, but I also think it would be worth doing preparing yourself for the possibility that no contact with any of them is the healthiest option for you and your kid.

I also think that managing your own guilt is going to be really important here too. Again, there are some strong societal narratives around duty towards parents, often with the implication that this work is a sacred commandment for the child to fulfil even if doing so is to their own detriment. It's okay to challenge those assumptions; they're also rooted in stuff like misogyny and patriarchy that demands free labour and caregiving from (usually) female relatives, no matter how bad the behaviour of the (often) man demanding or presuming this service will be rendered is. You are free to reject these narratives without guilt, doubly so because of the abuse you endured at the hands of your family. I do not believe that parents who treat(ed) their children badly can expect any kind of care or service from those children in their old age; you are neither a monster or a bad person if you need or want to walk away from this to keep yourself and your son safe.
posted by terretu at 9:19 AM on January 14, 2019 [31 favorites]

my mother's biological father became a ward of the state during the time she had no contact and my uncle wasn't able to help due to his own issues.

yes, they need caregiving(and your father's denying your mother a basic need falls under abuse) but it does not have to be your responsibility.
posted by brujita at 9:24 AM on January 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

What do I owe my aging co-dependent parents?


Look, I was a reasonably good parent to my children. I love them dearly and I sacrificed a tremendous amount for decades on their behalf in terms of time, effort, emotion, finances and every other resource I could scrabble together. Our circumstances required more sacrifice over a longer period than the average parent is called on to give. I joke that they owe me. But they don't.

Children owe their parents absolutely nothing. They aren't capable of entering into contracts - they don't knowingly enter into a quid pro quo arrangement when they are born. Are you giving your son food and shelter in order to give him a solid foundation for his own life, or with an unspoken goal of preparing him to return the favor for you?

Add abuse into the mix and nope nope nope. You owe your parents nothing. You've done the terribly difficult work of extricating yourself from an abusive upbringing - without your mother's help and with your father's attempts to undermine your efforts.

And you've created a healthy life and family for yourself. That is the family that needs and deserves your nurturing, loving energy. Your six-year-old deserves the love and attention you deserved at six years old. If you are focused on the sisyphean task of meeting your parents' needs, you will not have enough left over to meet your own, or your child's. Wish them peace and wash your hands of it. They made their choices.

If your son feels an absence from his grandparents, fill it with other loving people. Neighbors, teachers, friends, etc. There is no shortage of people who love kids and have skills and lessons and stories to share with them. Find those people and fill your life and your child's life with people who build you up. Let the guilt go.
posted by headnsouth at 9:33 AM on January 14, 2019 [80 favorites]

I would suggest attempting to meet your mother away from your father. She has made her choice, and you can't change that. But it sounds like her own involvement in the abuse was minimal (?) and she doesn't mistreat you herself in the present (?), and so making a modest effort to see her socially, away from your dad, seems like a reasonable thing to do. Just take her to a nice lunch with her grandson from time to time.

If she changes her mind herself, you can decide what to do then.
posted by praemunire at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

I ended all contact with my 70+ year old parents over a year ago. Last week I realized (on MetaFilter) that it would cost me everything I had gained and more to allow them back into my life. I cannot afford them mentally. I don't know what you should do regarding your mother, that is up to you, but you do not owe them anything.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:12 AM on January 14, 2019 [15 favorites]

I'm a mom, and I raised 4. They owe me nothing.

If there is anything you want to give to your mom, then do so, but don't sacrifice your own happiness, and for Cerberus' sake, don't hurt your son by exposing him to either of your parents, even if they don't actively wish him ill.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:22 AM on January 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

Ignore your father or say “fuck you” to his face if you get the chance, either way.

Can you make phone calls to your mother? Just to stay in touch and keep on top of what she might need? If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, of course. But she’s probably more comfortable with a call and you might be able to help out here and there. If you’re not feeling it............. it truly isn’t your responsibility. They had responsibilities to you as a child that they clearly failed in, and it doesn’t seem like they feel too bad about it.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Call and text your mom more and very casually, try to become closer to her emotionally. Also, buy her a smartphone to make it easier for her to stay in contact with you (via FaceTime/etc if possible, so that she can also talk with your son). Having a lot of contact will make it easier for you to keep tabs on her, will make it more likely that she'll open up to you and trust you when that's necessary, and will probably be pretty healing for you in general. You don't need to be close by to have a close relationship.

If you can go to doctor's appointments with her, do that. If you can't, get her to mail you business cards from her doctors so that at least you'll have their contact information. You can send her self-addressed stamped envelopes to put the cards in if that makes it easier (and more likely that she'll actually do it).

Talk to your lawyers about getting a power of attorney form signed and any other necessary documentation because now -- while she's still pretty functional -- is the time to do it.

Forget about your dad, frankly. He can figure his own shit out.
posted by rue72 at 10:43 AM on January 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

The relationship between your parents does indeed sound entrenched, codependent and abusive. Your mother has survived by being passive, and your rather has survived by being manipulative and abusive. Like Trump, he is spinning his own narrative with only fleeting reference to facts.

But your mother is suffering abuse and it is causing pain to you, your mother, and the absence of contact is making your son sad. It's not going to get magically better if you do turn your back on them, and it might make you feel even more guilt if your mother deteriorates precipitously at your father's hand. Your mother no doubt experienced trauma seeing her son deteriorate in his illness, and you have your own traumatic history with your family that you've struggled to reconcile.

Could there be another way? Is there an agency that provides social services for older adults in your parents' town? Perhaps a county agency, or even the state department of health could provide the names of suitable agencies. I am thinking that a social worker could be an outside expert, and a local resource for your mom. If she deteriorates and the social worker believes your father is contributing, this agency would have some clout to advocate on behalf of your mom. Your father does, in fact, sound mentally ill himself, and probably is completely unsuitable to be providing care to her. A social worker focusing on your mom could be very helpful in this situation. And if your father denounced and insulted you, the social worker and her agency would have encountered similar situations, where estranged kids try to help the best way they can without getting scalded in the process. This would allow you to intervene in a real way without personally having to do it, and without putting your son at risk.

Another possible ally could be Parkinson's disease organizations, though they seem to be focused on research. However, they might offer suggestions or have local (to your parents) contacts.

This is a terrible situation for you to be in, and although it is true that you don't owe your parents anything at all, I sense that you feel torn and want to help your mom in her illness and her awful living situation if you can do so without putting your emotional health and your son at risk. I'm pulling for you and sending love your way.
posted by citygirl at 10:54 AM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Call the elder abuse prevention hotline on their state's elder affairs website. Your father appears confused; he evidently thinks he's still in the position of power he's been in his entire adult life, wherein he's been able to abuse other people for fun and to avoid minor inconveniences. In fact if he doesn't smarten up and get nicer, he might be on the cusp of very major inconvenience. If he can't tamp down his urge to abuse your mother and someone or someones with the power to act notice, he may lose his independence. It would be in his best interest to stop being horrible to your mother, but he clearly hasn't realized that, possibly because he can't. I don't think it's in anyone's interest for you to try to help in person or try to argue either of them out of this folie à deux; it might even make things worse for your mother. But you might be able to help by turning your father in. I'd just call and say, "Hoarding, squalor, roaches, risk of fire, Parkinson's, abuse" and then their address. Then hang up. I wouldn't say word one about all the family history, the tragedy of your poor brother, the house, their awful betrayal of you personally, or the fact that your father can't be civil to you because he thinks behaving decently might eventually lead to his having to part with money. None of that is germane. All that matters is that someone with Parkinson's is living in a home that must almost necessarily increase her suffering and worsen her illness. You don't even owe that, much less anything further, but it would probably feel better to at least try calling for help for your mother.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2019 [23 favorites]

What do I owe my aging co-dependent parents?

You owe them nothing. It's unreasonable for anyone expect you to tolerate abuse. Period.

I feel guilty abandoning my mother to her fate, particularly because of the physical and emotional effects of losing my brother. But I think I have to turn my back on them. Is there anyway to do this humanely? Is this fair to my six year old? What should I do? What would you do?

I think you should try to have a relationship with your mother, in some form, but only if it feels safe for you to do so. There are some suggestions above about logistics like texting that may work for you. If it doesn't work without your having to tolerate more abuse from your father, you have this internet stranger's permission to consider that being in this relationship is a choice she is making. Every single day.

Your father is a lost cause. I'm sorry. But you owe him nothing, not even civility at this point.

I've written here before (read that whole thread btw) about how as a child nobody modeled norms for me. I grew up thinking my parent's abusive behavior was acceptable by other adults because no one challenged her in front of me, and no one let me know her behavior was not normal. No one led me to expect anything different from a parent.

Be the model for your kid. Show him what respectful relationships look like. Show him what a healthy, happy adult uncowed by abuse looks like. Demonstrate for him how to love and care for yourself by putting on your own (collective--both of your) mask first. You and he are the protected inner circle. What will you allow inside it?

But I think I have to turn my back on them. Is there anyway to do this humanely?

You don't have to be cruel, but a humane cutoff is one that is humane to you and your son. I recommend a letter, stating the conditions under which you would consider talking to him/them again. Know before sending it they will never, ever meet those conditions. Ever. But you will have staked your boundary, in writing, for them to read and re-read, or burn, as they wish. Whatever happens, they will know where your boundary is and the password for crossing it again. This knowledge is not for their benefit. This knowledge is for you.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:34 AM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I agree with headnsouth about your parents. But for your son, I think you can explain to him that your parents don't contact him because they are too sick. Up to you if you later want to explain narcissism to him or not. (If it's any comfort, in a few years your son would probably be able to clearly see your dad's terrible treatment of you and not want to visit anyways.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:12 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Your mother is complicit in a lot of things. I understand the narrative and the feelings a lot, a lot. But the fact is that allowing her child to be treated the way that you have been, was complicit.

Allowing your father to control her, to not insist on her own Internet access, to not call up a toilet seat installer herself and have the toilet seat installed...these are all choices, or the results of a lifetime of choices. Sure, she probably didn't anticipate this back when she allowed him to treat you like shit, to control her inch by inch, to dictate the terms of everyone's tiny little square inch of earth within his kingdom. But she did.

She did.

She gave up her autonomy and it was a choice. There are people who can help her with that, should she change now (unlikely)...but it does not have to be you.

This won't necessarily change your feelings, but I think it does shift the moral equation.

I am now estranged from them, save for a few texting exchanges I've had with my mother since.

... But it does feel to me like a loss i must start to process now and move on. I can see very clearly, probably for the first time, my mother's complicity in her own misery and feel compelled NOT to rescue her. It just seems morally wrong for me to abandon a person who has a physical disease that could prevent her from helping herself.

Her disease is not preventing her from getting help. It certainly complicates it and makes it harder but she could speak with her doctor and move towards a care facility for herself, for example. She could call social services.

Also, I'm not sure how you think you could rescue her? To be rescued, she has to leave your father. If you really want to be available for that you could let her know that if she wants to leave your father you will help. That could be your boundary. But you may not want to, and that's okay.

I feel guilty abandoning my mother to her fate, particularly because of the physical and emotional effects of losing my brother. But I think I have to turn my back on them. Is there anyway to do this humanely?


You let her know: When you're ready to leave dad, I will help you find resources to do that. Until you are, we can have the relationship via text that we currently have, but there will be no visits and I cannot fly out to help you.

I don't know how to get this across but I will try...you are not being asked to help your mother. You are being asked to maintain the very fabric of your family's life that permitted you to be abused in terrible ways, to be demeaned, to be torn down again and again by the very person -- people -- who are supposed to defend you and lay their lives down for you. Your mum (or maybe your cousin on your mum's behalf, or just your cousin) is not asking for the normal help you give a sick person. You are being asked to re-enter a structure designed to rip you apart, to isolate you, to make you feel alone in the world...in order that your mother not feel alone while she chooses to hold up the same place.

I, Internet Stranger, give you permission to not help your mom, and still be an ethical, capable, full-blossomed human being. Stay here in the world where you, yourself, your needs, your desires, and your limits matter, because you and they do.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:15 PM on January 14, 2019 [37 favorites]

Sometimes it's best to try framing things as little as possible in terms of "fairness" or what anyone "deserves". Or rather, sometimes there are competing unfairnesses. It's possible you can't, or shouldn't, provide whatever it is your mother "deserves".

If someone needs two kidneys to live, they don't deserve to die, but this also doesn't morally obligate anyone else to provide their own kidneys. Even donating "just" one could be too much of a sacrifice to ask. Helping your mother to an extent that would hypothetically fix most of her problems might be like giving both your kidneys. Not only is it unselfish to refuse, it could be be more wrong to do it than not, because you have your own life and your child's life to take in account.

It's a myth that love is an infinite resource that conquers all obstacles. Your love will do much more good for you and others in your life. Don't do nothing at all for her, but don't fool yourself that a "best" option exists.
posted by InTheYear2017 at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I am heartbroken over this loss and feel very guilty about effectively leaving her to the fate of god knows how many years in a bed with my father as her sole companion. But it does feel to me like a loss i must start to process now and move on. I can see very clearly, probably for the first time, my mother's complicity in her own misery and feel compelled NOT to rescue her. It just seems morally wrong for me to abandon a person who has a physical disease that could prevent her from helping herself.

If your mom wanted out of this situation, she could have done something about it prior to this point. It's not on you that she hasn't, it's on her.

As far as what you owe them, you do not owe them anything. Love does not conquer all, and certainly not the abuse history and ongoing gaslighting you're describing. You do not have to spend the rest of their lives caring for them and enduring more abuse, and that is what will happen if you decide to take on their care.

Please take care of yourself and your kid. You deserve to have a good life, and to get away and stay away from people who have treated you so horribly. Your kid deserves a better life than watching your parents abuse and demean you and being exposed to a hoarding situation.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:50 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, I want to be clear, although I suggested trying to maintain minimal social contact with your mother if you can do so without encountering your father, I don't think you have a moral obligation to do so and definitely should not do anything that jeopardizes your own peace of mind for her sake. Under these circumstances, a full cutoff would be justified if that's what you felt you needed.

Best of luck to you. I know how tough these situations can be.
posted by praemunire at 3:40 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have talked with my mother's cousin about the idea of setting up a cleaning person/aide to go in a couple of times a month to clean and keep an eye on her, with this cousin as an intermediary to arrange it and receive money from me to put toward it. But, in truth, I just don't want the responsibility anymore.

this does seem like a perfect solution if, and only if: you can afford it without too much sacrifice / her cousin can and will handle ALL the practical aspects / her cousin agrees not to give you any reports or updates if you don't want them.

the last part is the trickiest, but if you could have it set up so that your contribution is purely financial and not emotional, and so that the help is directed (as far as possible) exclusively to your mother, not your father, it sounds very reasonable. to be able to give a very basic level of essential support to your mother without having to be in her home or interact in any way with your father is an incredible opportunity. you still don't have to do it, but it sounds like a way to eliminate both abuse and guilt at the same time. it just costs money.

however, if you can't afford it or think she doesn't deserve it, you don't have to do it.

or if you could afford it but can't stand to do it and also can't stand the guilt, you could cut off your parents permanently and instead give a comparable amount of money to some kind of charity for the elderly in your local community - plenty of old people are in failing health and poverty, have never hurt you, and don't have anyone out there feeling guilty about their living conditions. it's much easier to help people you don't have a horrible history with, and it does just as much good. more, really.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:50 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thank you all for the considered and very thoughtful answers. I’ll give this thread a close read again and make some choices about where to go from here. I’m feeling pretty encouraged that I can set some firm boundaries and stick with them, both for myself and my son.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:29 PM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

You do not OWE your parents anything simply because they decided to have sex and you somehow survived their parenting or lack thereof.

My recommendation: visit the relevant JustNO reddits for your situation, and ask for advice there, among thousands of people who have dealt with similar circumstances. Maybe start with JustNoFamily? Make sure you take a look at the sidebar, it's easy to miss if you're on mobile.
posted by stormyteal at 8:21 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just want to pop back in and give an update.

I sat with all these thoughts for several days and did not reach out in any way to my parents. It occurred to me that, as a wise poster above mentioned, nothing was really happening in the moment that demanded I rescue my mother; it was an ingrained reaction to any kind of movement within my parents' relationship that feels alienating or abusive to me. My mother's health has been in decline for a long time. My father has been hateful and rage-filled for years. What is really happening is that I am finally breaking with them in my consciousness, and I suppose I needed some grounding in good, solid advice and support here to fully manifest that in my mind and heart.

Nothing has changed except my experience of an old situation. I realize in doing some further reading on this subject that estrangement isn't just a relationship of no contact, it's really a relationship of limited real interactions and practically no intimacy, and that is the relationship I've had with my parents for a very, very long time. Truly, we've been estranged in every real sense for decades. The only difference is now I can call it what it is and breathe easier about it with each passing day. I can feel okay about not seeking out reassurances that my absence from my mother isn't causing her pain or worsening her decline. She's made her choices. I can do nothing about them, nor must I try any longer.

Thanks for the crucial advice. I so appreciate it.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:51 AM on January 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

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